Navy seizes Rs 4.8B in heroin on high seas

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An operation by the Sri Lanka Navy, in coordination with the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), led to the seizure of about 240kg of narcotic substance,suspected to be heroin along with seven foreign nationals, on 5 May. The value of the consignment seized during the operation is believed to be over Rs 4.8 billion. The narcotic substance was found in 220 packages which were stuffed in eight sacks.

The Navy said the operation was carried out in the international waters south of Sri Lanka by the Offshore Patrol Vessel SLNS Sayurala, following nearly three weeks  surveillance in the international waters. During the period of surveillance a suspicious stateless foreign fishing vessel was spotted about 630 nautical miles (1166km) off the southern coast.

Upon detection of the suspicious vessel, SLNS Sayurala has signalled the foreign vessel to halt for a search. However, since the suspicious vessel tried to escape from the scene, SLNS Sayurala fired warning shots targeting the forward path of the suspicious vessel.

As the vessel continued to escape, disregarding warnings, with aggressive maneuvers while resisting the search, the Navy unit chased and intercepted it. Due to the aggressive maneuvers of the suspicious vessel, it collided with SLNS Sayurala and sustained damage to the hull.

Subsequently, the Navy boarded the vessel and seized about 240kg of narcotics, suspected to be heroin with seven foreign nationals aboard and the vessel.Due to the damage caused in apprehending the vessel, water spurted inside and the vessel sank on 7 May, in the process it being brought ashore. It is suspected that this foreign fishing vessel carrying the narcotics was supposed to be stationed by smugglers in international waters to get narcotics transferred and fetch them into the country, under the guise of a vessel engaging in multi-day fishing activities.

The identity of the apprehended foreign nationals has not yet been confirmed. Onward investigations and legal proceedings into the incident will be carried out by the Navy and Police Narcotic Bureau.

In a similar operation mounted by the Navy in coordination with Sri Lanka Coast Guard, State Intelligence Service and PNB, a local multi-day fishing vessel, carrying about 330kg and 532g of smuggled heroin and about 10kg of Crystal Methamphetamine (Ice) was apprehended in seas off Dodanduwa, Galle on 12 April. Further, 11 suspects with a dingy, a cab and a three-wheeler in connection to this smuggling of narcotics were also held and handed over for legal action.

(NV)